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The benefits of media educators’ travel

ONLINE PLUS
The human-interest part of travel duties reveals additional benefits that traveling journalism teachers experience. For a multifaceted look at the contributions of traveling instructors, see pages 16-27 of the summer 2012 edition of Communication: Journalism Education Today.

PERSONAL REWARDS

Although traveling journalism teachers are primarily doing workshops to share their knowledge with students and advisers, it is clear they enjoy what they do and benefit from the experience, both professionally and personally.

“Being involved in workshops keeps your knowledge more current and your skill level more up to date,” said Beth Fitts, CJE, executive director of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association. “The mere act of teaching is a joy. As directors, we sometimes don’t get the added enthusiasm of teaching a new group of people. That’s just plain fun. Another benefit is networking with other advisers and journalism leaders who are in charge of the workshops.”

C. Dow Tate, media adviser at Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kan., had a similar reaction to teaching workshops. “I love being around other people who are doing the same thing I do,” he said. “You’re so isolated during the year most of the time. At workshops you can sit around and talk and spin ideas and watch other people teach too. That’s how I met my wife. She was an instructor at the Kansas State workshop.”

As a private-school teacher, Eric Thomas, MJE, who teaches at St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City, Mo., said, “The workshop is great for me to connect with journalism teachers. I am usually on an island by myself without much collaboration.”

There is also the reward of teaching completely different students. “Getting out of my classroom and away from students who know ‘how we do things’ and have heard all my stories is a nice change,” said Charla Harris, CJE, publications and broadcast adviser at Pleasant Grove High School, Texarkana, Texas.

“I like to hear about other schools and other staffs and let them tweak my staff structure and policies,” she said. “I love helping them craft concepts and angles for their publications and their stories and seeing their enthusiasm. I always go home with new ideas and new energy.”

Linda Drake, MJE, publications adviser at Chase County Junior-Senior High School in Cottonwood Falls, Kan., also enjoys the interaction with students. “Many times I think that I learn as much from the students as, hopefully, I teach them,” she said. “These workshops help make me a better teacher.”

THE WHY OF JOURNALISM EDUCATION

Bobby Hawthorne, Texas writer

It’s the only real-world writing experience most high school students receive. The product is written (or should be written) for a student audience, not an adult or a committee of adults. I’m confident that most high school writing is produced for the teacher, who has neither the time nor inclination nor motivation to read for substance and pleasure.

Kathy Zwiebel, CJE, Pennsylvania mentor

Young people learn to look at the world with a journalist’s eyes, always curious, questioning and seeking the truth. They learn how to prioritize responsibilities, to solve problems, to work as a team and to communicate effectively.

Linda Puntney, MJE, Kansas consultant

I care about spreading journalism education because I believe our democracy depends on a free press that is ethical, responsible and accurate. But along with that free press, democracy depends on an informed and critical-thinking public.

Frank LoMonte, Washington, D.C., proponent

Students know best when education is failing, and we should all be listening more closely to the warning signs from them. Honest, uncensored journalism is the most effective way for students to let the rest of us know where schools are falling short.

Bruce Watterson, Georgia instructor

I care that we focus on great journalism, not the tabloid-“ization” of the craft. Having traveled to Europe, China and Asia to teach newspaper journalism for the Independent Journalism Center and the Wall Street Journal/News Fund, I met students in those areas who yearn for a free press and for the right to free speech. They understand the value and hope they will some day experience it firsthand.

Jack Kennedy, MJE, Colorado leader

Nothing else in the American high school quite matches scholastic journalism in terms of fostering citizenship, building character and developing all sorts of communication skills. I like to preach that journalism/media education is the new English and something indispensable to great high schools.

For more information on the benefits of traveling, visit the winter 2012 issue of JEA’s magazine — Communication: Journalism Education Today.

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